Written by Wyckoff Nissenbaum [ www.MAFamilyLawBulletin.com]
A great tech blog, Gizmodo, recently featured an article titled “Virtual Assets Are Not Community Property”. For those who do not know, online gaming worlds have virtual goods for sale that cost real money. The article discussed a recent divorce ruling in China addressing whether virtual assets are includable in the marital estate.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208 Section 34 lists 14 factors to consider in determining an equitable division of marital assets. While it is important to understand how the Court will ultimately divide the assets, first it is necessary to determine what is as a marital asset. The Court determined that “A party’s “estate” by definition includes all property to which he holds title, however acquired. Therefore, this provision gives the trial judge discretion to assign to one spouse property of the other spouse whenever and however acquired” See Rice v. Rice, 372 Mass. 398 (1977).
At the time of the Rice ruling, the Court most likely did not contemplate that there would be an online world containing virtual assets. So does this mean that assets in virtual land are not subject to division? The assets can probably be considered marital assets and these assets are worth big bucks. TechCrunch.com estimates that in 2011 sales of virtual goods will be approximately 653 million dollars and the social gaming industry will be worth over 1 billion dollars. When getting divorced everything either party owns may be considered marital assets, so it is important to find a lawyer that understands how to make the facts work for their client.